The Brooklyn Bridge in Stereo

The Brooklyn Bridge was an engineering marvel that changed New York. On completion in 1883, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world, the first steel-wire suspension bridge, and the first bridge to connect to Long Island. The bridge was lucky enough to be built when stereoview cards were popular, and so today is a frequently appearing image on these cards.

Stereoview cards contain a set of photographs taken by a camera with two lenses. The images are about 2.5 ” apart, which is approximately the distance between our eyes. When viewed in the prismatic lens of a stereoviewer, the brain perceives them as a single image in 3-D.

Stereoview cards are quite collectible today. They are relatively easy to find if you know where to look and show landmarks, genre scenes and important events. While not many of us alive today can remember when stereoviews were popular, many of us can remember the ViewMaster, which works on the same principle. (a nice bakelite viewmaster is a great thing to have too!)

Three images of the Brooklyn Bridge include one by the Keystone View Company from Meadville, Pa; one from William H. Rau in Philadelphia and one from Underwood & Underwood from New York. In 1920, the company sold most of its catalog of views to the Keystone View Company.

While for the most part stereoviews are associated with the Victorian-era, the Keystone View Company and a subsequent company manufactured the cards into the 1970s. If you search for the cards on ebay, you may find some pornographic images which found their way onto the cards in the 1950s.

It’s difficult to determine the actual photographer of many of the images. Of particular interest is the work of William H. Rau, a noted landscape photographer who was at one point on assignment for the Pennsylvania Railroad. His work is in the collections of several American Museums including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Rau also photographed the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in Saint Louis, and the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon. I am not sure how many of the images on cards with a Rau label were actually taken by him.

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Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage. When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city. With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s. The result will be a book with a video component. We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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